In addition to this blog, I have a number of other jobs. I’m a manager, novelist, and a designer. I’m a daughter, sister, and a wife as well as friend, aunt and dog owner, but I’m also a mom which means that at any given time I’m a volunteer janitor, baker/short-order cook, event planner, mediator, cheerleader, chauffeur, counselor, and occasional nurse/doctor.
Unfortunately, that last role has decided to disrupt my regular schedule by taking priority over all others.
I’m writing this update in between medical rounds, reassuring my patient that he’ll feel better soon, and disinfecting everything that he has remotely come in contact with (up to and including our dog). In the meantime, I would invite you to take the time you normally might have spent here by reading some other posts I’ve recently enjoyed:
The Pain Pals Blogshared a list of things they don’t tell you about in the what to expect when you are expecting books in a post entitled “Things I’ve Learnt Since Being a Mum” in honor of Mother’s Day on the other side of the pond. Many of these things I had to learn the hard way too.
I’ve grown to associate the summer with the superhero thanks to the plethora of movies featuring masks, spandex, and last-second rescues. But not all stories of the summer involve vats of radioactive goo or other experiments gone awry.
This story started out years ago – almost nine to be exact.
I’d been promoted shortly before learning I was also expecting. Not to worry – while the timing might have been less than ideal, it was all going to my master plan. I was going to have it all and there wasn’t anyone out there who could stop me. Whahahahahah.
It turns out I was wrong. There was a person who could stop me. That person was me.
Thanks to a series of regrettable mistakes, my eldest son was less than a year old when I found myself in desperate need of a dependable care provider for the third time.
I saw an ad online for a stay at home mom located near my home, and though I liked the idea of a public daycare with their known holidays, trained professionals, and proven curriculum, the lack of balance in my bank account and paid time off, made it all too clear we no longer had the luxury of being picky.
I noticed all her references were from out of state. Desperate times…, I thought as I nervously dialed, but every single one told me the same thing. If she has an opening, hire her. You won’t regret it. Yeah, we’ll see.
The day of our scheduled interview, I brought Kiddo along as if his newborn senses could somehow detect dangers, bad auras, or other half-truths. We started with the story about her most recent move from Maryland and why they, as Iraqi immigrants, had chosen to move further south. Kiddo cooed, rolled, or did something cute and our conversation turned to the matter at hand while she cuddled him and gave him a toy – exactly, how would she care for my son?
The short answer was – like one of her own.
However, in the years since that initial hire, the longer answer also proved to be – much better than how I might have cared for him alone. I’ve since come to suspect that she was less than forthcoming about how she’d come to my town during that initial interview, but then again, if you were interviewing Mary Poppins, would you really trust a person who claimed to have arrived by umbrella? Especially in today’s modern climate? Of course not.
She taught my children responsibility as well as courtesy. When her sister visited from overseas, she gave them the opportunity to experience cultural sensitivity too. Then when my youngest was slow to start walking, she attended his physical therapy sessions with me so that she could ensure his weekly challenges were part of their daily routine. They were lessons I might have taught, but I know myself to say it wouldn’t have been with the same degree of unquestionable patience.
So I will forgive her for the omission regarding her method of transportation. While she might not be a superhuman (unless you are like me, and consider the ability to care for five children under the age of six for eight to nine hours a day without going mad, a superpower) she is still a super human to me.
My youngest son, LT, graduates from her care this week, an event prompting this post. I am overjoyed at the idea I might actually find an extra dollar or two in my savings at the end of each month, relieved at the thought of an extra minute or two at the end of my daily commute and proud of how my son has grown under her loving care. However, I can’t help feeling I’m losing a bit of my support system and a piece of my family, which has added a sadness sprinkled with an ounce of terror too.
I thought – there has to be a word to describe what I am feeling, but maybe it simply hasn’t been translated into English yet. So I looked it up.
Hygge (Danish) – that trendy word for the feeling you get when you are cozy and sitting around a fire and everything is just the way it should be
Boketto (Japanese) – a word meaning that wistful feeling you get when you gaze out of a window and imagine the world on the other side and all its possibilities
Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anxious/panicked feeling when you are expecting visitors anytime and can’t stop thinking there is something else you need to do to get ready while checking to see if they’ve arrived every sixty seconds. (I know this feeling too well).
Vellichor – that wistful, nostalgic feeling some of us book lovers get when we go to a used bookstore or old library and imagine the story behind how a book came to be on the shelf.
Occhiolism – the feeling that comes from the awareness that your perspective is limited.
Sonder – the realization that each person you meet (and even those you haven’t) has a story of their own and life just as full of uncertainty, experiences, and mixed emotions as yours.
This chapter in our lives may be ending, mine, LT’s, and hers, but I know it is also a beginning for us all too. As LT readies for kindergarten and my needs change from daycare to day camps, I know that there is probably another family out there in need of help, hoping for a last-second rescue.
And to that family – I know the woman floating in via umbrella looks highly suspicious. I do. But if you find she has an availability, hire her. You won’t regret it. Believe me. Superheroes are real. This I know.
LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.
The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?
At the park, the sun shone down with only a few clouds breaking up the brilliant expanse of the otherwise blue sky. I settled onto a bench inside the playground as LT climbed up on the play set designed for the bigger kids. “Look at me,” he shouted as he crawled through the plastic tunnel connecting a pair of slides.
I wondered why on earth we were the only ones at the park on such a lovely day. LT went down the larger of the slides. “It’s too hot mommy,” he advised as he reached the bottom. I realized the kid wasn’t exaggerating as I touched the plastic. The equipment might serve as a skillet if it was much hotter. I now understood why the playground was empty.
LT’s brother wouldn’t return for another hour or so. “How about we go on a waterfall hunt,” I suggested. The greenway was not too far away. We just had to go to the end of the sidewalk. LT beat me to the gate.
The temperature dropped a good five to ten degrees (F) as we made our way down the gravel path connecting the trail with the outside world. As always, I felt as if we’d been teleported to some distant place as the canopy of trees stretched out above us. “This way,” LT requested, pointing in the direction of one of his favorite places along the path – a small bridge arching over an even smaller stream.
Leaving the trail, we descended down to the stream below. Large rocks enabled LT to step halfway across where he dipped his fingers into the water at the top of the small falls. “Can a waterfall move?” he asked.
“I suppose it can,” I answered, “but it takes some time to move on its own.”
We ventured further along the stream bed to where the bank was broken up by a myriad of smaller rocks and pebbles. LT reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt. Throwing it into the water, we watched as it dispersed into a ribbon-like cloud as the current took it downstream. LT grabbed a larger rock and this one too went into the water with a plunk, but unlike the dirt, the rock remained in place. You could almost see the gears turning in his head.
“Can you make a waterfall?” he asked.
Once again I nodded and soon he was grabbing rocks, twigs, and bits of dirt. The water bulged where LT had added his obstacles, rising over the additional rocks as it rejoined the existing flow. It was hardly Niagara Falls, but it was enough of a difference in height for LT to declare success.
I knew by this time his brother was likely home and would be looking to share his own adventures with us. “Are you ready to go home and tell Daddy all about your waterfall?” I asked.
“But it’s not my waterfall, mommy,” he answered with a smile. “It’s ours.”
“All I did was stand here,” I countered as my heart did a little flip-flop as it tried not to melt.
“But you were here with me,” he replied.
It was a comment that probably kept him from getting grounded for life when he decided to lock himself in his room later that night in protest rather than get ready for bed. Ah, kids. And like that he was once again the child I recognized.
I’ve thought about the stream and our waterfall. He only moved a few rocks, true, but even so, the stream will never be exactly the same. The newly formed eddy, as small as it is, will cut into the stream bed creating new paths for the current to flow. These underwater paths, these series of small adjustments, might go for years unseen but will continue to trigger more changes. Another rock might shift. Another eddy form. Until one day, years from now, someone might dip his or her finger into the top of a waterfall where one did not previously exist – all thanks to LT and the difference he made at the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go, for the children, they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends.” – Shel Silverstein
And it will be our waterfall because you were here with me. We’re never as alone as it seems. I know we can move waterfalls. All it takes is to first be willing to make a small change.
Up until that moment, I’d been enjoying a few minutes of downtime with some light reading after a long work day. LT’s latest five-year-old pondering caught me off guard. He had to be asking someone else.
Putting down my magazine, I looked around the room, attempting to locate any other member of my family LT could be addressing. Of course, neither my husband nor my eldest son made eye contact. It would appear I was on my own. “Er … um … as in, if I lost all of it? All at once?”
“Then, yes,” I answered with caution, somewhat worried about what must be going through LT’s head to prompt such a random question.
“Why?” LT asked, elongating the word as only kids can as he took a step closer, eliminating any chance for my escape.
Once again I looked around the room for anything at all I might use as a diversion. “Because without my skin my insides wouldn’t stay inside.” We’re a very technical household.
I could see LT chewing over my answer in his mind as I braced myself for another round of questioning. Instead, he only smiled. “I am going to give you more skin so you won’t die.” He hugged my leg, satisfied with his solution.
Occasionally I wonder if my youngest may be a wee bit offunique.”Um … thanks …?” I replied as he wandered away, but all I could think about was the line by Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs – ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin.’
A day or so later, LT approached me with an orange. “Do you need me to help you with that?” I asked. Once again LT nodded. Within short order, I handed him the peeled results. “Here you go. Now throw the peel in the trash, please.”
“That’s for you, mommy. It’s skin,” he replied with a smile before shoving the fruit into his mouth and hopping away.
I looked at the peel in my hand and remembered our earlier conversation. It was skin. It hit me then – LT had indeed figured out a way to keep his promise (even better, no humans were harmed in the process). That’s a relief, I thought as I walked his ‘gift’ over to the trashcan.
As I closed the lid on the trashcan, another thought occurred to me – not only had LT gotten me to throw his garbage away for him, he’d managed to do it in a way that made me grateful for the opportunity. It almost made me wonder if this was the end result he’d had in mind from the start. LT is no budding Buffalo Bill but he could yet be the next Hannibal Lecter (minus the serial killing and cannibalism).
Or he might just be a really good salesperson.
Why? Because at five, he already knows how to close a deal. Lucky kid. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from watching him (and this goes for selling goods such as books, services, or tricking your parents into doing chores for you) –
Never open with the hard sell
Just like if someone walked into a room and announced without preamble, buy my stuff if LT had given me his orange peel and told me to throw it away for him, I would have said absolutely not. First, because that’s rude, and second, because I know he has two good feet. Instead, he managed to reframed the conversation by priming me to think that orange peel in my hand was a good thing.
2. Connect on an emotional level
Even those who consider themselves fact-based decision makers, make decisions based on the facts that make them feel like they made the smart and rational decision. The prospect needs to feel good about the decision – not obligated. If he’d dropped the peel at my feet and run away without first reframing the conversation, I probably would have thrown it away for him. Once. But rest assured my youngest would be regretting that poor choice in the not too distant future.
3. Highlight the potential benefits
Will the reader be entertained, learn something new, or think about life in a new way? Will the prospect save time or money? Will mommy live longer thanks to an extra layer of vitamin C goodness? Your book, service, or product should exist for a reason other than to only make you rich. Don’t be subtle about it. If you leave it up to a potential reader / client / customer to connect the dots, there is a chance they won’t.
4. Identify the pain
In other words, take the time to really get to know your audience. You know who they are and where to find them, but what is it they wish they had more of? Why don’t they? It is also just as important to find out why they’ve tolerated less up to this point so you can anticipate how to overcome obstacles and objections. Tailor your pitch accordingly. You don’t want to risk dying, mommy, do you?
5. Keep your promises and follow-up
LT’s seemingly random question may have been mostly forgotten after an amusing conversation shared between friends and family, and a statement on twitter, if it weren’t for his follow-up as well as how he kept his promise.
While he may not have successfully sold me on throwing his garbage away for the rest of time, by this simple act, he has ensured I’ll never look at his leftover orange peels in the same way ever again, and that’s no small deal.
Inspired by Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
My boss came into my office. “I am going to throw a curve ball at you,” he said, shutting the door.
Just like that, I could tell that it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
“Kay has turned in her notice.”
Kay is one of my peers. This announcement meant there was a better than average chance a portion of her work would find its way to me, at least temporarily, while the position was refilled. I looked at my mug. “I am going to have to start spiking my coffee,” I replied while I considered moving to Australia.
My boss laughed but didn’t disagree.
Yep, I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Five o’clock rolled around, ending an office day filled with sympathetic looks and panicked responses (many of which were mine). I raced out the door. My husband, Lamont, was out-of-town the rest of the week (a trip I hadn’t known about until the afternoon before), therefore it fell on me to pick up our children from their various locations. All I had to do was get there on time.
I hit traffic.
Much later than I’d planned, I waited for Kiddo to pull his shoes on and collect his book bag. He, however, was more interested in showing me bits of small paper. “I’ve made a card,” he advised. “For the Leprechaun. Do you think he will come tonight?”
I silenced my inner groan along with several other choice words I won’t print here. The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, and I had nothing prepared. No Leprechaun traps. No pots ready to be filled with gold. Nothing. When exactly had leprechauns coming to your house on St Patty’s Day become a thing anyway?
I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
When we got to the house, Kiddo made a bee-line to the television, ready to consume his daily allowance of cartoons. Her Royal Highness, our dog, made an equally determined path to the front door, ready to take care of her own daily requirements. I looked to Kiddo. I looked to Her Royal Highness. Taking her outside would give me an opportunity to send a message to my mom regarding a certain Leprechaun. “I’ll be right back,” I called. The cartoon’s theme song was already playing as I closed the door.
Mom replied back within short order, not for me to worry, however, Her Royal Highness had not yet done what we’d come out to let her do. Just then a cat appeared, and not just any cat – it was the cat. The cat that is either the bravest or stupidest animal I’ve ever seen. Whatever the reason, this cat not only is not afraid of dogs, it actively seeks them out. Spotting Her Royal Highness, it immediately crossed the road, causing a car to come full stop and angry looks shot my way.
Her Royal Highness passed her cat test before we brought her home, but still, I don’t like to tempt fate, nor do I wish to be responsible for an injury of someone else’s pet. Seeing no other choice, I led Her Royal Highness away. The cat followed. Only when we rounded a corner did the cat give up its pursuit. If I wasn’t an animal lover who doesn’t condone this line of thinking, I might hope you step on a tack, cat.
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
That’s what it was because when we returned inside, the house was empty. Guess whose kid decided, in those short few minutes, that he missed me more than he wanted to watch his cartoons and had run off in the opposite direction with his brother while Her Royal Highness was being chased by a cat around the corner?
If what I’d felt during the work day was panic, the myriad of swirling emotions I experienced in that moment has yet to be named. I wondered if invisible fencing for children is allowed in Australia.
I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I texted my mom (or roughly something like that). I didn’t look at my phone to see if she answered.
While I was scolding/hugging my children for giving me a fright, Mom showed up on my front porch with a frozen mix of Korean noodles in hand. It was a wonderful gesture, but. . . they proved to be utterly inedible. Even Her Royal Highness turned it down.
Kiddo, wanting to show off for his Nana, took twice as long to do his homework than he usually does and LT, well LT was his normal self, but if I allowed LT access to the phone, he probably would have called Australia.
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Lamont didn’t promptly return my texts, and I hate that.
Exhausted after the kids went to bed, I couldn’t motivate myself to work on my WIP and I hate a lost opportunity.
When I finally did hear from Lamont it was clear he’d been having fun while I was not. I still hadn’t figured out what to do about the Leprechaun outside of mom’s vague assurances that all would be well and calling into work sick the next day wasn’t an option.
It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
My mom says some days are like that, even for people who might seem to have it all together.
I guess it’s a good thing for me then, that my mom lives nearby and not in Australia.
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